We should all know by this point that a sequel isn’t something that should be trusted at face value; it needs to prove itself first. You can’t just throw something together, toss a number two or three on the end and hope for the best. Well, you can (they did here) but it probably won’t work out that well. It’s here The Houses That October Built 2 fails, not building enough beyond the original and so unable to escape the sophomore slump, but that doesn’t stop it from trying, though not very hard. The premise of Houses 2 is much like 1 – a team of twenty and thirty somethings, lovers of Halloween and haunted houses, run a Youtube channel/website/something dedicated to celebrating and reviewing the haunts that pop up all over the United States once autumn starts. They travel around, covering haunts while things slowly start to get stranger and higher stakes until they run into the Blue Skeleton crew, a group of extreme master haunters, from the first instalment. In that previous movie, , the lone female character has a near death experience while being buried alive, eventually resulting in police intervention and her refusal a at the start of this movie to join them this year. Eventually, they beg her enough that she agree’s to come along, under the promise that they won’t do any traditional haunted houses this time around, as that is tied into her fear of what happened to her last time. The gang is very aware they need a lady in their group as to not be a complete sausage fest and therefore garner those ever important views we all strive for these days, so once she’s locked in they are set to really begin.
This setup is what drives the first hour and a bit of the movie as the gang cruise around back roads and farmers fields visiting some more non-traditional haunts. They visit a zombie 5k that replicates running through an end of the world city while being attacked by the undead, an escape room, and a haunted hay ride. This part of the movie, consisting essentially of body cam and drone footage of actual haunts and events, is interesting in a documentary sort of way, allowing viewers to get a ground level experience of a bunch of haunts they’ve likely had a chance to read about online but not actually see or participate in. This part of the movie is where HTOB2 really works for me and it makes me wish, much like the original did, that I was watching a straight ahead haunted house documentary instead of the found footage thing before me.
As the crew cruises around from haunt to haunt hints of and then members of the Blue Skeleton crew (the “extreme haunters” from the first movie) start showing up more and more frequently until a few days later, when our haunted house loving cast are straight up driven to a new location in the middle of the night while they are sleeping, unaware until they wake up in ANOTHER STATE the next morning. Now, I’m not down for what this movie labels “extreme” haunts – where attendees can be struck, spit on, locked in boxes, or in the most extreme cases, driven out to the middle of now where and left to find their way back, but I can see why some people might be. Being driven without your knowledge to another state in the middle of the night to stumble around in the dark in a haunted house that may end in you getting buried alive seems like it would be the line for most people, but not them. At least it moves the plot along, even if it isn’t quite believable without knowledge of what’s to come.
The crew decide to do this haunted house in another state because I guess if you’re in a weird and sketchy situation you might as well go all in. This really kicks things into high gear (or as high gear as this movie gets) and things start to get weird. I won’t ruin the ending because it’s really the only thing remarkably different from the original, but suffice it to say most viewers will have already figured out the ending long before it happens. The Houses October Built 2 doesn’t build much on the meagre mythology laid out in the first movie, instead choosing to stick too close to the original which doesn’t allow the movie to really define itself as a separate entity. I’m sure there’s some actual interesting story that could be told with the porcelain doll mask girl that seems to be the series mascot, but the opportunity they have here to build on that is wasted, using her instead to just move the plot along in the most unexciting way possibleas a confusing deus ex machina.
House That October Built 2 doesn’t really bring much of anything new to the table outside of the new haunt footage, which at the end of the day probably isn’t quite worth the price of admission. Thankfully, that means that if you just want to toss this sequel in without seeing the first one, you aren’t really at risk of missing out on any intricate plot details that might carry over.
-Scott Floronic (@ScottFloronic)